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Some Days Are for the Birds

Jan Chait

January 29, 2008

"Is that a real bird?" my cleaning lady asked on Monday.

"No," I said without looking, thinking she was talking about a toy bird that had come off the cats’ scratching whatzit.

A minute later, I glanced down at the cats, who were leaping around closer to where I was sitting. "It is a real bird!" I exclaimed. "Where did that come from?"

Welcome to my world.

Yes, it was a real, frozen, dead bird of some sort. In my house. The house with no open windows and two cats that not only don’t go out, but refuse to go out. The two cats that adopted us a couple of weeks ago and know that a warm house with food on demand is much better than foraging for food in the frozen wasteland outside. The cats that won’t go anywhere near a door that opens to winter.

Not only do I not know how a dead, frozen bird wound up in our house, I’m still trying to figure out how we wound up with two cats. I have my suspicions about the cats, however: The short version is that there were two cats hanging around outside the house until I went out one day when my husband was home and, when I returned, there were two cats in the house, complete with food and supplies. They’ve been here ever since.

They did come in handy when Ryan came to “play” over the weekend. Ryan, who is 18 months old, has been keeping me company off and on pretty much since he was born. His grandmother is a friend of mine—she’s the one who told me about endocrinologists—and his mother used to babysit my grandchildren.

Ryan doesn’t quite remember me when he first arrives and throws a fit when his mother begins to leave without him. (While he apparently doesn’t remember me, he knows where his toys are and where his favorite snack is kept. Go figure.)

All it took to get a kicking, wriggling, screaming toddler to immediately quiet down was for a cat to walk into the room. His mother hadn’t even made it out the door yet. (”Mom? Mom who?”) Talk about being distracted!

Ryan turned out to be pretty distracting for me. I remembered that 18-month-olds are “busy,” but I’d forgotten just how active they are! He wore out both my husband and me. Four hours with Ryan, and we were ready for our naps. Another plus was that chasing Ryan brought my blood glucose down, even after he fed me the oranges off his plate at lunch.

I know that this is kind of winding around here and there a bit. Maybe the bird still has me discombobulated.

On to pramlintide (brand name Symlin) which, by the way, also helps keep my blood glucose down. I haven’t been using Symlin for a few days now. I used the last of what I had in the house and didn’t want to refill my prescription right away, opting instead to wait for the SymlinPen. While it’s available nationwide, it just hasn’t made it to all of the wholesalers yet, including the one my pharmacy uses. Any day now…

I’ve been taking Symlin since shortly after it was released in 2005 and I’ve been waiting for it to be available in pens ever since. Not only are pens more convenient, but the membrane on the Symlin vial is so tough that it dulls the needle on an insulin syringe the first time you poke it through. I’ve been giving myself injections with dull needles since I began using Symlin. Although it’s worth it for the blood glucose control, I haven’t been real happy about it.

I also don’t understand why the company that could bring exenatide (Byetta) out in pens out of the starting gate couldn’t do the same for Symlin, but I suppose it had its reasons.

So I enrolled in the Symlin Support Program (www.symlinsupport.com) for the informa… um, well, actually because you get a free travel case for the SymlinPen, she admitted sheepishly.

Monday morning, I got a call from a Symlin Support Group resource person. I’ve used Symlin and I’ve used insulin pens, so there weren’t a lot of surprises there—except when I learned that Symlin in pens is measured in micrograms instead of units.

So I called Alice Bahner Izzo, Executive Director of Corporate Affairs for Amylin Pharmaceuticals, which makes Symlin, to ask why a company that markets a product to people who measure injectable drugs in units would throw micrograms at us.

Basically, I learned, it comes down to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. Micrograms could be “translated” to units as long as Symlin was being measured in insulin syringes, but pens are a different animal.

So now I know why I need to add “micrograms” to my vocabulary. And why the FDA isn’t my favorite government agency. And that toddlers are good at lowering your blood glucose.

But I still don’t know where the bird came from. And the cats aren’t talking.



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